Reading program empowers kids

Allie Curtis

TRIMONT — Reading can be difficult for some children, especially if they feel pressured or put on the spot. If their ability isn’t on par with others, it can be easy to get discouraged.

However, students at Martin County West Elementary School in Trimont now have the option to continue their education in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

An after-school program called EMPOWER is held at the school on Mondays and Thursdays until 4:45 p.m. Principal Chad Brusky shared how the program came to be.

“It’s an adaptation of a program that was here last year called Making Connections,” he said. “We’re an integration school district and there’s integration and achievement monies that we can run after-school programs with and partner with other schools. At this particular location, we ran an after-school study hall in years past, but last year we tweaked it to include reading intervention.

“So kids get about 45 minutes of reading intervention and 45 minutes to a half hour of supported study hall time,” he continued. “We staff it with two teachers and two paraprofessionals. It’s also really cool because kids get to help kids, so some of our stronger readers are helping kids who don’t read so well.

Fourth-grade teacher Allie Curtis works with the students directly, and notes how much they seem to enjoy the program.

“Especially the more interactive, hands on things,” she said. “We’re learning as we go, so they’re progressing as the system works.”

Brusky noted that students focus on six major Minnesota standards that cover grades 3-6. He said attendance for the program has been up this year, compared to 2017.

“Parents have committed to getting their kids here, and we also run a bus to Sherburn and Welcome so that we can provide some transportation.”

When asked about how the kids seem to enjoy the program, Brusky said they take to it pretty well.

“Some days attendance is around 40, other days it can be as high as 60,” he said. “In a building with 240 kids, that’s a pretty good buy-in. It’s also not your typical classroom lessons; it’s interactive so they’re in the hallways, they’re moving around the school.”

Brusky is appreciative of all the hard work from the staff, as the curriculum for the program has been developed from scratch.

“It’s not something that we’ve gone out and bought,” he noted. “Teachers are going on to Google, researching best practices to think of ways to get kids to think of the topic slightly different. What’s really cool is that teachers are saying that kids will talk about things in class that they learned in the after school program.

“I think that’s a bigger sign of success than any test score,” he said. “I think the greatest part is just the support for families. They’ve committed to getting their kids here, and the other fun part is that it’s constantly adapting, which gives teachers a chance to practice a technique in a non-classroom setting.”

If parents are interested in the program, permission slips are in the main office at the school in Trimont, or they call and get sent a form. Those with questions may call the school office at (507) 639-2071.

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